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An Observation

Several years ago, I made the following observation. In fact, it prompted me to write the book, Delight Your Customers:

While employees consistently execute the mandatory job functions for which they are paid, they inconsistently demonstrate voluntary customer service behaviors for which there is little or no additional cost to their employer.

Perhaps you have made the same observation?

For instance, the bagger at your local supermarket will consistently ask, “Paper or plastic?” And he will routinely bag all of your groceries and place them in the cart. But he will inconsistently smile, make eye contact, or add enthusiasm to his voice.

The premise of Delight Your Customers is the distinction between two dimensions of every employee’s job role: job function and job essence. Job functions are the duties and tasks associated with a job role. They’re often transactional, expected by customers, and process-focused. They’re reflected in job descriptions, policies and procedures, and protocol. They’re what employees are hired to do, trained to do, and paid to do. As it relates to the job role of a supermarket bagger, job functions include: asking, “Paper or plastic?” before bagging groceries and placing them in the cart.

But those job functions are only one part of the bagger’s job role. The other aspect of his (and every employee’s) job role is job essence. Job essence is an employee’s purpose; their highest priority at work. And for most employees at most companies, their highest priority at work is to create and keep delighted customers. As it relates to the job role of a supermarket bagger, job essence includes: smiling, making eye contact, or adding enthusiasm to his voice.*

As opposed to being transactional (like job function), job essence is relational. Rather than being expected, it’s unexpected. And rather than being process-focused, job essence is people-focused. Job essence is reflected in an employee’s personality, her enthusiasm, attitude, demeanor, and unique flair. And rather than being a requirement of the job (like executing routine job functions), job essence is elective and discretionary.

It’s not zero-sum: job function or job essence. If your goal is to create and keep delighted customers, it’s both.

* Caveat: These behaviors are voluntary. You cannot force an employee to smile or care whether or not a customer’s eggs break or loaf of bread gets smushed. That’s why hiring the right people is so critical. While this is not a blog post about hiring, I have three words of advice: screen for initiative – because, without initiative, there cannot be consistently exceptional customer service quality.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

New! Cascade the lessons from Delight Your Customers throughout your department, division, or entire organization. Order the Delight Your Customers Companion Guide by Steve Curtin and Brian O’Neill.
Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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